Last week was a fun opportunity to head out to the West Coast with Ashton Harrison. We were there preparing for her first SRO race of the season, which will kick off at Sonoma Raceway.

Ashton has driven Laguna Seca many times, but never nearby Sonoma. It’s one of those special circuits that’s worthy of a trip in advance, no matter how much time you spend practicing on the simulator!

Despite not having the race team out there with the car she’ll be campaigning this year—that beautiful NSX GT3 Evo 22—it was still a worthwhile trip to get her some seat time prior to the race in two weeks.

Sonoma is not just an incredible racetrack, but the surrounding area is famous for its vineyards and gorgeous surrounding landscape. The racetrack is designed around that topography, which creates very dramatic elevation changes and blind corners.

Not only is the Sonoma circuit dramatic in elevation, but so is the beautiful surrounding area.

Not only is the Sonoma circuit dramatic in elevation, but so is the beautiful surrounding area.

After Ashton’s first couple of sessions, she really had an appreciation for the challenges of the circuit. Although her previous simulator work helped her get up to speed quickly, it definitely paid off for her to see the track’s nuances in person. And, not only that, but she got to see them at a slower speed since she was driving a less capable car than the NSX GT3.

Pro race weekends always offer limited track time, so it will be that much more beneficial for Ashton to have already had this time at Sonoma. Since this wasn’t the car she’ll be racing, we weren’t overly focused on the data component. Rather, we utilized lots of in-car video footage to critique and build on after each session.

The speed and grip levels will be very different when Ashton comes back later this month, but understanding car placement and being ready for the challenges of the racetrack itself will be a big help when it’s time for the race.

I’m really excited about Ashton’s upcoming SRO season, and she’s already off to a great start this year after a successful 12 Hours of Sebring in that same NSX GT3.